The news made a splash, but it wasn’t the only topic buzzing among conference-goers.
During the participant roundtables—where attendees brainstorm, share ideas and learn firsthand from peers and industry insiders—it quickly became evident that larger firms were all concerned about four things:
- Artificial intelligence
- Learning and adoption
Keep reading to find out what’s on the top of their minds concerning these subjects (along with my biggest takeaways.)
Artificial intelligence (AI)
When it comes to generative AI and programs like ChatGPT, participants were concerned with:
- The rapid evolution of generative AI solutions that are likely to impact their firms.
- Misuse of AI and how it may expose their firm to liability.
There’s a significant amount of hype with the roll-out of hundreds of different applications and usage. So, first and foremost, participants discussed how to get a handle on AI within their firms.
The first solutions accounting practices are most likely to use are:
- Vendor-directed solutions (that take into account the unique privacy and security needs of accounting) once they’ve been vetted by vendors.
- Microsoft Office 365’s integrated AI (Copilot).
- “Public” AI solutions such as ChatGPT, Bard and LLaMA 2.
These generative AI solutions will eventually be successful within accounting firms when positioned as “virtual assistants.” They’ll help us do certain components of our work rather than replace us. But again, they need to be implemented with proper guardrails to provide confidence that they can be safely used.
- Designate individuals to monitor AI integration into existing applications and processes.
- Focus on vendor solutions targeting better productivity and client collaboration.
The search for digital solutions that eliminate all manual, physical components is still going strong, and firms are even mandating clients adopt them, too.
The challenge: The volume of innovation and new solutions from accounting software and technology vendors is increasing. While the solutions are mostly great, participants echoed the same sentiments when broken into small groups:
- It’s becoming nearly impossible to continually evaluate and adapt to new solutions.
- There’s an overwhelming amount of information.
- There has to be a way to filter out the unnecessary to find solid, workable tools.
The solution: Assign a person to their specific area of expertise to evaluate new solutions. Ensure the individual has access to the appropriate time and financial resources to pursue solutions on behalf of the firm.
Additionally, firms participating in peer networks or associations have a higher level of confidence in adopting new solutions. Members of these groups learn from the successes (and failures) of their peers, creating quicker pathways to success.
- Assign responsibility to monitor specific applications and technologies to individuals genuinely interested in that specialty.
- Give them charge hour credit to value their research equally with client work.
- Prioritize innovation for the firm.
It wouldn’t be an accounting profession event without cybersecurity coming up.
Cyberthieves constantly identify new attack vectors. They target every aspect of a firm’s technology—making it nearly impossible for any individual to adequately protect their firm.
Security should never be an afterthought. But in my consulting with medium and large firms, most see cybersecurity as one—with understaffed IT teams and minimal training being their solution to risk.
The consensus: Firms are best off partnering with providers specialized in cybersecurity, with depth of personnel and robust applications running on 24/7 availability.
- Partner with cloud-based managed security solutions that provide enterprise-class applications, monitoring and support.
Learning and adoption
Firms face so much change at an increasing pace. To help, firms need ways to identify innovative tools, vet them and decide which ones to implement (and when).
One solution: Firms designate seniors or managers with the responsibility for following announcements in their chosen expertise. In this way, you begin developing a learning culture. Additionally, once the tools are decided, you’re able to standardize usage and roll them out to other users at the firm.
Along with those individuals developing an “innovation mindset,” as listed above, the firm also would benefit from formalizing the learning process to capture the firm’s best practices and educate users on them. Documenting best practices in writing, as well as recording training sessions further fosters new solution adoption.
Again, being part of a peer group outside of the firm helped attendees identify and implement tools and processes with less risk.
- The key to technological adoption is to develop a “learning culture” mindset.
- Promote the adoption of best practices via a formal learning process.
- Allocate resources to keep initiatives moving forward.
Consider these takeaways in future strategic planning sessions
We anticipate these four themes will permeate in the near future. Not only for large firms, but for small and medium-sized practices as well. Owners should consider them as integral components in their strategic planning.
To find out where we’ll be next, view our event page.
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